Memorable story grips audiences

You are probably familiar with Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, a quintessential play about a man’s failure to achieve the American dream. But while many of you may have read his most famous play in school, you may not be as familiar with Miller’s All My Sons, which has the same theme of failure running through it. Ultimately, though, it is a more dramatic and engaging story than Salesman, and one of Miller’s best.

Luckily, All My Sons is running on Broadway until Jan. 11 at the Gerard Schoenreld Theater on W. 45 St. and 8th Ave. The play boasts a well-known cast including John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, Patrick Wilson and Katie Holmes.† Lithgow and Wiest play Joe and Kate Keller, a married couple whose son Larry has died in WWII. Their other son, Chris, played by Wilson, plans to marry his dead brother’s girlfriend Ann Deever, played by Holmes.

While this plotline may sound overly melodramatic, Lithgow and Wilson make the events seem quite plausible. At the Nov. 16 matinee performance, the role of Kate was played by Lizbeth Mackay, who held her own against Lithgow as a mother full of both grief and denial.

When the play begins, it is the middle of the night and there is a storm brewing. The entirety of the play takes place in the Kellers’ front yard, with just a door and a tree (planted in honor of Larry, it falls during the storm) on stage. At the back of the stage is a screen, which signals to the audience whenever a new act begins and occasionally displays images.

While the three main actors magically bring the plot to life with believable sincerity, Holmes overacts.† Her performance, unlike the rest, seems slightly forced and unnatural. That being said, she does fare better during the more dialogue-fueled dramatic scenes than the scenes where she is supposed to be humorous.

By the end of Act I, Chris and Ann are engaged (Kate doesn’t know yet, though), and the audience awaits the arrival of Ann’s brother George.† It is also revealed that Ann’s father, Steve, is serving time in jail for sending faulty cylinder heads for planes during the war, which ultimately causes the death of 21 pilots. Steve was in business with Joe, but Joe manages to win an appeal and is able to get out of jail.

Act II and III are equally, if not more dramatic and even more entertaining than Act I.† When George arrives, he tells everyone that it was not his father’s fault that the faulty cylinders were sent out and that it was actually Joe’s fault. No one really believes him until Kate accidentally lets it slip that Joe’s excuse for not being at the factory that day was indeed untrue.
The scenes that follow are some of the most riveting and brilliantly written to grace Broadway.† Lithgow and Wilson are the perfect father-son pair.

There are many things that this production of All My Sons does extremely well. The main cast (save for Holmes) is natural and believable. The supporting cast of neighbors is also solid and adds much-needed doses of comedy whenever a scene gets too serious. Whether or not you are a fan of Arthur Miller or plays in general, All My Sons offers a gripping enough story that you’ll surely remember long after you leave the theater.